Inside Croatia's Amazing New Luxury Wine Resort
"Wine resort by the sea” has to be one of the most enticing descriptions in travel, a phrase that conjures images of idyllic days spent on sparkling coastlines and evenings devoted to sampling fine vintages. While these paradise-like settings can be found in top wine countries all over the world, they are not high in number. But now there’s a luxurious new one—the Villa Katarina, part of the Korta Katerina winery in Croatia, the country that’s been a hot, hot destination in recent years, whose islands and coastline are catnip for sailors and yachts in summer. In addition to the Korta Katarina villa (for those with deep pockets), there are winery tours and gastronomy lunches to book, where you can sample KK vintages and sophisticated Croatian and Mediterranean cuisine.
Korta Katarina, consisting of winery, vineyards and the villa, operating for the first full summer season this year, is located in prime Croatian wine territory in the town of Orebić on the Pelješac peninsula, about a two-hour drive from Dubrovnik. The complex is the brainchild and passion of Lee and Penny Anderson, American philanthropists who began to visit the area in 2001 on humanitarian missions after the Bosnian War. While assisting in rebuilding the war-ravaged territory, the Andersons traveled to nearby Croatia and became enamored with the region, its cultural riches, food and, at the time, under-the-radar wines, although the area has been producing them since at least Greek times. Ardent oenophiles, the Andersons, who’ve been actively involved in the Naples Winter Wine Festival (which benefits a children’s charity), decided to invest in their own winery.
When asked what has been the greatest satisfaction in bringing Korta Katerina to fruition, Katharine Anderson Groethe, the Andersons' daughter who oversees importing and distribution for KK wines in the U.S., responded that it's been the ability to share "the incredible varietals of Posip and Plavac Mali with the world, and the overall pride in Croatia's history, culture and wine-making traditions that date back some 2000 years, as well as the maritime history of the Pelješac Peninsula."
The Villa Katarina, among Croatia’s poshest hospitality offerings, ratchets up the luxe factor for Mediterranean rentals—big time. More than renting a home, it’s like commandeering a gorgeous boutique hotel for personal use. With ten rooms, including eight suites, the villa can accommodate up to 20 guests. (All meals and butler service are included.)
Decor is serenely sumptuous—as are the mesmerizing Adriatic views—classic in style, but with a modern spin, and toned to a soothing palette of pale blues, gray, cream and white. All rooms, including the lavish marble bathrooms, have views overlooking the sea. While there’s a nearby sand beach, the property has its own infinity pool, indoor and outdoor jacuzzis, along with massage and steam rooms, a sauna, gym and even hairdresser facilities.
“They’re taking the concept of five-star luxury to the next level,” says Wanda Radetti, the founder and president of VisitCroatia.com-Tasteful Croatian Journeys, cited by Conde Nast Traveler as the Top Travel Specialist for Croatia for more than a decade. “For me, the Korta Katarina villa is the first of its kind in Croatia. It’s where someone can escape to, in extreme luxury.” Radetti also praises the locale. “The area rivals the beauty of the Amalfi Coast," she says. "The panoramic views are amazing.”
In addition to the villa, there's a 61.3-meter yacht, Katharine, with six cabins on the main deck, spacious reception rooms and a spa pool. It is available as a separate charter, typically for a minimum of six days; villa guests can discuss sailing options with the yacht’s captain and the villa manager if the Katharine is in the area and available.
The villa’s first full summer season isn’t Korta Katarina’s only news. The winery, which turns out 60,000 bottles a year, is introducing a sparkling rosé, Cello, to add to its portfolio of red, white, rosé, and sparkling wines. Today, the majority of the winery’s sustainably-farmed vineyards, one of which is adjacent to the estate, produces Plavac Mali, a grape native to the area.
In its short history, KK’s wines have racked up a number of accolades—silvers and bronzes in the Decanter World Wine Awards, the well-known competition held by the UK-based international wine magazine—along with high ratings. Reuben’s Private Reserve 2009 earned a 91 score (and the silver medal in the 2017 DWWA); other vintages, for example, the 2014 Sabion Posip and 2016 Posip, earned 89 and 88 points respectively from Wine Enthusiast. Anderson Groethe says future plans for the winery include increasing distribution worldwide and encouraging wine enthusiasts to visit "and experience all that Croatia has to offer."
Korta Katarina, which is open for winery tours by reservation, hosts gastronomy wine tastings that include three- or five-course lunches paired to the estate’s wines. For more information: Korta Katarina.com